Thursday, 31 December 2015

Preserving Breslau Memorial Park for the Children

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and you are enjoying a festive end to 2015.  It has been quite a year, a year that I will cherish whatever 2016 brings.  I have met some amazing people and I have begun to form a bond with the community I live in.  My last post was more than a month and a half ago; I was feeling quite discouraged as I attended a variety of council meetings and felt that the newest portion of Breslau Memorial Park would be sold and there was nothing more I could do.  As we celebrate the end of 2015 there is suddenly a glimmer of hope.  To start things off I want to provide you a year in review summary of the events of 2015 pertaining to Breslau Memorial Park.

It is hard to believe all of that has happened, we have been along for quite a ride.  The Council meeting on January 12, 2016, will be your last chance to have your say about the Township selling a section of Breslau Memorial Park. Please come to the Council Meeting and let Council know that our parkland is not for sale.  We have had a year of meetings, press releases, media inquiries, official reports, arguments, and discussions.  We now fully understand what this project means to us now and to Breslau's future. In our ever-growing community, our parkland needs to be protected. Once it is sold we will never be able to get it back and we will lose control of what gets built on and around this area. Bringing the Jan.12th meeting to Breslau is courageous step by the township and a head-on challenge to those fighting for the park. Many have gone to council numerous of times stating that Breslau does not want this.  We have made it clear that Breslau can move forward without this deal and we will be better off for it.  We now ask you to show Council that our statements held meaning. The baton is now passed to you to demonstrate that Breslau does not want this, we need you to show your support and not only attend this meeting but also register as a delegate. This will not be an open mic information session, it will be a regular meeting of Council and certain procedures will be in place. If you would like to speak at this meeting you will need to register as a delegate.  Information below is taken from the township website:
Persons wishing to appear before a regular meeting of Council or Committee shall notify the Council and Information Services Department no later than 5:00 p.m. on the Thursday preceding the date of the meeting. Generally, all delegations are heard at Committee meetings rather than Council meetings. A person may register to be listed as a delegation on the revised Council or Committee agenda no later than 12:00 noon on the day of the meeting, only if the delegation wishes to address Council or Committee regarding a current agenda item.
If you wish to include any handout or presentation materials as part of your presentation, or if you require the use of a laptop and/or projector for your presentation, please contact Council and Information Services no later than 5:00 p.m. on the Thursday preceding the date of the meeting at 519-669-1647 ext. 6115 to advise staff of your requirements.
I am encouraging everyone to register and make your voice be heard. Delegations do not need to be long prepared speeches with an excellent punch line.  It can be as simple as, "Hello, my name is [name] and I am a resident of Breslau.  I [do / do not] support the sale of public parkland to the WCDSB for the purpose of building a school." If you would like to address Council please complete the Online Delegation Request Form or call 519-669-1647 ext. 6115 to register.

Personally, my goal is to have 100 delegates registered by January 7, 2016.  If you do not speak against this project by stating you are opposed, it will be interpreted as having no opinion. There has been much talk about the "silent majority" and what direction they will support. You need to attend this meeting and register your opinion as a delegation.  It is possible for Council to open the floor to unregistered delegations, but you cannot assume this will happen. Council has made a significant gesture by moving this meeting to Breslau, we must respond with our participation in significant numbers.

I would like to make clear that a new catholic elementary school will be built in Breslau even if Council chooses to not to sell our future.  When council voted against the project back on September 29, 2015.  The WCDSB immediately sent out a letter to the current students of St. Boniface, indicating that there were other options and they would be able to proceed with a new plan within 3-5 years.  This isn't about a new school, this is about Breslau's future after it grows into a city over the next 50 years.  Forests don't grow overnight and they don't grow through school buildings or asphalt playing surfaces. Right now Council has an opportunity to preserve this land when other lands are under used all around Breslau.  In the future, the pressure to build will only become more intense and large greenspace parks will be that much more valuable.

Something else to note is that during the Jan. 12 meeting there will also be discussion about changing the name of Breslau Memorial park, along with the other changes displayed in the table below:

Current Name Proposed New Name
Former Riverland Sales CenteThe Empire Room
Breslau Memorial ParkBreslau Memorial Park
(In memory of Private Donald Ralph Burkholder and all War Veterans)
Woolwich Township ArenaSt. Jacobs Arena
Woolwich Community CentreSt. Jacobs Lions Hall

Please consider registering as a delegate for the meeting on January 12, 2016.  We need your support and your involvement now more than ever before. I hope you have a fun and safe New Years eve.

Thank you!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Selling Parkland a Township of Woolwich thing - Victoria Glen

While researching specific historical Township of Woolwich policy a friend came across a parkland battle between the Township of Woolwich and residents. I am referring to a battle over about three acres of the park in the area of Synder Avenue, Dunke Street and Victoria Glen Street in Elmira.  The image above is a recent google street view of the area.  The comparisons between the battle for Victoria Glen and our fight for Breslau Memorial are scary similar.

The township was contemplating surplussing a part of these lands for the construction of a subdivision.  I was able to find a blog entitled Preserve Victoria Glen Park, that supporters of the park were maintaining to convince the township that the short term gain of money was not worth the long term loss of this space. I should note that the Township Council at the time were: Councillor Sandy Shantz, Councillor Murray Martin, Mayor Wm. L. (Bill) Strauss, Councillor Mark Bauman, Councillor Ruby Weber.

The following are quotes published in the Woolwich Observer that discuss this situation. I have pulled a few quotes from each article if you don't have the time to read them all.

Residents unite to save Victoria Glen - June 19, 2009
  • “It’s a valuable resource. It’s not the money that’s the value, it’s the forest, the green space,”

Sale of parkland to fund township’s building blitz - June 26, 2009
  • “We are the keepers of this land, and we’re doing a poor job of it,” said Ken Reger, who has lived within sight of this area for his entire 76 years.
  • “As someone else said, ‘surplus green space’ is an oxymoron.”

Resistance called for when change isn’t for the better - June 26, 2009
  • “ "Potential" looked a whole lot more like "certain" at the revelation Woolwich is counting on the development of the land to pay for its aggressive capital spending.”
  • “But not all change is for the better, and there’s nothing wrong with nostalgia in good measure. The people who realize those facts are the ones lined up to oppose Woolwich’s plans for Victoria Glen.”

Woolwich to borrow $3.72 million for new buildings - October 2, 2009
  • “The only remaining building project, the Breslau community centre, is expected to have no impact on borrowing or other financing arrangements. Just under construction, the $2.2-million facility received a joint federal-provincial grant that covers two-thirds of the cost. The township’s share will be covered through development charges collected on new construction and from money raised by the community.”

Showdown looms over Victoria Glen development plan - October 30, 2009
  • “We’re very disappointed,” said Elmira resident Cheryl Fisher in an interview this week. “It seems the money is more important than preserving this area.”
  • “David Brenneman, Woolwich’s chief administrative officer, called the plan a fair compromise, turning 20 per cent of the park into needed cash while helping the township meet provincial requirements for infilling projects rather than so-called greenfield development.”
  • “It’s not just Victoria Glen – it could be any park in town. We have to fight for our green space,” said Orr.
  • “They keep going on that ‘it’s only 20 per cent.’ It’s not. It’s much more than that.”

Park debate shape of things to come - October 30, 2009
  • “Who’s to say future needs for cash won’t be addressed by the sale of assets?”

You can fight city hall … And win - November 13, 2009
  • “The end was something of an anticlimax, but residents went away happy Tuesday night as Woolwich council scrapped a proposal to build a residential subdivision in a portion of Elmira’s Victoria Glen Park.”
  • “Councillors did not deliberate for long before voting unanimously to drop the proposal”

Securing Elmira’s Victoria Glen as green space
  • “With this transfer also comes the promise that the two parcels – which are currently zoned as residential – will be rezoned as open space along with the rest of the seven-acre park to effectively protect it from any future development.”
  • CAO David Brenneman after the decision to scrap the project.
  • “For Orr and Cowan, the message sent to the rest of the region by Elmira’s decision to put the interests of its citizens over the almighty dollar by protecting the forest and the green space is an important one, particularly given the township’s recent movement towards planting more trees, not cutting them down.”
  • “I hope that this is an inspiring thing for other people and organizations. There is strength in numbers and if enough people believe in it and come together, that’s how things change in the world.”

Back to Breslau

I was enlightened by reading these stories and I am more than happy with how these residents came together to fight for this space.  I was enlightened because I had no idea that this fight was going on, we as a township need to learn more about each other.  We can't complain about Elmira until we take the time to understand the issues they are dealing with.  The purpose of this post is to connect our struggle with theirs, they won against the shortsightedness of easy money and it looks like we will face the opposite result.  I sincerely hope that in the future when the next group of residents takes on short sighted politicians the words that I have written here and the words written by Preserve Victoria Glen Park will give them direction and hope.

As a Breslau resident you should receive a written notice about the intent to declare 4 acres of Breslau Memorial Park surplus.  This is a required step in order to sell the land to the WCDSB.  Normally this notice is only sent to homes near the affected area.  However, Councillor Bauman requested that this notice be sent to everyone in the settlement area of Breslau.  This will be your last chance to voice your opposition.  Victoria Glen was saved because of sheer numbers, we need to have a significant response to that notice.  That response needs to be from new people and from more people, if you have not made your voice heard, that notice will be your chance (contact the township council).

Back to the Woolwich Councillors

So now this brings me to my conclusion, I am very interested to ask the following to Mayor Shantz, Councillor Bauman and Councillor Martin:
Did you get the Victoria Glen park wrong?  Has the years since 2009 made you rethink that project and wish that you would have made an alternate decision?

Councillor Martin likes to remind us about the Wal-Mart decision, and the Race Track decision.  Why has he not mentioned the Victoria Glen decision?  A decision made unanimously by Councillors to scrap this plan that has the highest parallels to our situation.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Breslau can Build a Better Breslau

It is truly incredible how a small 4 acre piece of property can bring people together.  The view above is from the opposite corner of the park then most of my other photos with the community centre off to the left of the image.

There has been so many votes, discussions, meetings, arguments, counter arguments, presentations and media coverage on this project.  If you haven't been following it all feel free to scroll through the posts. Today I would like to introduce Building Breslau.

Building Breslau is a group of Breslau residents that are working to save our park land from being sold by the Township of Woolwich.  We have started a PLEDGE DRIVE to show the Township of Woolwich that Breslau will support volunteer fund raising efforts to build a library and provide amenities for the parks of Breslau IF council decides NOT to sell the park land to the Catholic school board.

This last statement is key, we are concerned that residents will have no desire to donate to our community projects if they feel the township could use those projects as bargaining chips in the future.  I have personally heard residents say this about the fundraising that took place for the current community centre gymnasium.  Approximately $400 000 was raised and now the township is using it as a bargaining chip with the WCDSB.  Consider this for a moment, would the school board be interested in building in this location if residents had not raised that amount of money?  If the community centre gym was never built would a school want to locate there? Residents now feel betrayed by their own generosity.  A long time member of the Breslau community spoke to council on October 20th and asked for his money back.  Whether you think this is a justified reaction or not, it is a real feeling that exists in past donors and something we need to consider moving forward.

Front entrance to Breslau Community Center
Building Breslau is not asking for actual money at this time, just a pledge of your support. Public discussion and setting priorities need to happen before we ask for money. Once monies are collected, they will be held in trust by a 3rd party charity, not the township. All donations will be processed through a registered charity for tax receipt purposes.

Pledges can be spread over a period of up to 5 years if needed, and if you have a specific item you would like to support (library, splash pad, etc), you can specify that on the PLEDGE FORM.
Front entrance garden at Breslau Memorial Park
Please help show your support to save Breslau Memorial Park and show council that people will support fundraising efforts to help build Breslau. For more information, or to make a pledge, please contact

The petition launched at the outset of this project in February has 264 signatures opposing the sale of this park land, demonstrating the opposition to this project.  However, this is the last push.  If council is not convinced that maintaining these 4 acres as parkland is in the best interest of Breslau, we have to decide what to do next.  We must come together to form our community by working together.  I am hoping for some nice weather on Saturday because I have been invited to work on cleaning up the front garden of Breslau Memorial Park.  Hidden in this mess (photo above) are 3 memorials that hold a significant connection to Breslau's history.  I will be meeting others there just after lunch this Saturday to work on this garden.  We can't just say we are a community, we need to be a community.

To reiterate the point, Building Breslau is NOT asking for your donation now (although there is a Lions club in Breslau that would love to talk with you about a Splash Pad).  This is a preliminary pledge to demonstrate to council what is possible when they believe in our community.  To close out this post I will leave you with this:

The name for Breslau Memorial Park was inspired by Private Donald Ralph Burkholder, who was killed in action during WW2 on October 29, 1944, he was 20 years old.  He was a member of the South Saskatchewan Regiment in the Canadian Army. He was the Son of Clarence and Effie May Burkholder of Breslau.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Councillor Bauman Flip Flops Sells Parkland

This post will be a short one but a necessary one.  It will be short because if I continue to write I will most likely say something I may regret and this is the internet.

Tonight, October 6, 2015 I attended another council meeting.  This meeting by the agenda was supposed to be directing staff on what to do based on last weeks decision by council to not move ahead with the school plan.  However, it turns out that last weeks vote was in a Committee of the Whole meeting which, as I have just learned, is pointless and a waste of everyone's time.  The actual vote on the project occurred this evening.

There were 11 delegations registered to speak in support of the project which most of us through was the purpose of last weeks meeting.  However, I look back on it now and Mayor Shantz wanted to postpone the vote to tonight but Councillor Bauman felt that since so many people came out they should vote that evening.  In that vote Bauman rejected the school proposal.  I have realized that this was a challenge call out to the other side to realize that they may lose.  The other sided responded with 11 delegations.  Most of these delegations all had valid points and spoke passionately about the topic.  Others, unfortunately, felt the need to make up numbers and try to persuade councillors with seriously skewed and outright false facts.  I mean making up a number like $1 000 000 in extra costs if they don't build now is a mind boggling publicity stunt.

In the end Councillor Bauman asked the vote be revisited and he passionately stated his new position in support of the project.  This flip flop by Bauman and the expected support by Councillor Hahn left the council 3-2 in support (4-2 if you include the Mayors vote).

If Bauman would have voted yes last week providing a 3-2 support of the project I would have been disappointed but I would have accepted the outcome as the most inevitable.  This week I was emotionally charged by the new challenge ahead of me an the numerous volunteers that came forward to me this week.  We had an opportunity to come together and work on projects and actually build our community.  After this engaging week, watching Bauman flip flop was devastating.

Congrats everyone you will get a new school, despite the fact that you chose to live in Breslau knowing that your preferred school was an hour bus ride away.  I chose to live in Breslau to back onto a park, but I guess your school board has more money then my township.

What I feel is the biggest loss to Woolwich is the volunteers that came together to make something our of our park.  They are devastated and feel they have been shot in the back.  The businesses that have donated money in the past have now said they won't donate a dime.  I am interested to see the magic for how far this 1.75 million will go.  Once they use that up, that's it.

I am going to stop now.  Good night Breslau and good luck, because that picture at the top of this post, is just a memory.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Ball in Breslau's Court - Community Building

Last night, September 29, 2015, a Committee of the Whole meeting occurred in the Township of Woolwich council chambers on 24 Church Street in Elmira. The key issue of the night was a discussion of the WCDSB proposal to purchase land in Breslau to build a new elementary school.  The land in question is pictured above.  The goal of the school board was to partner with the township and share the gymnasium facilities.  This project was presented to the public in February 2015 if you are new to this situation scroll down through this blog to catch up on the details.  At the meeting last night the Councillors were to vote on accepting this proposal and moving  it to the next stage or denying it.

There were 9 delegations that registered to speak on the project, 6 of them (including myself) spoke against the project, 1 was neutral, and 2 were supportive of the project.  Everything about this project has demonstrated that the community was deeply and equally divided and this meeting was no different.
In the end there were 3 Councillors who voted against the project (Bauman, Merlihan, L.Shantz)  and 1 Councillor (Martin) and the Mayor (S.Shantz) who voted for the project.  Councillor Hahn was not present and did not vote.  
Before each of them voted they spoke about how difficult this project was to vote on.  Each side of this issue had valid points and had many supporters.  The specific details of this meeting, who said what, who was right, who made mistakes, who was misleading, and who was wrong are not important. I voted for Councillor Shantz, Councillor Martin and Mayor Shantz, if that vote was held again today I would vote for them again. They all did their job as best as they could and they represented those who voted for them. The reason the three Councillors voted against the project was because they were putting their trust in Breslau. They spoke loud and clear and with their votes and said, "Ok Breslau, if this isn't how you want your park to be upgraded, the ball is in your court.  What's the plan?"

I deeply respect Councillor Martin and Mayor Shantz for voting the way they felt was right.  Breslau is divided and so was council this is expected.  We live in a country were we can celebrate diversity and disagree with each other respectfully.  In the end my side won, but the sober evening after what does that mean? I remember the night I wrote my first blog post on this topic.  I thought in the back of my mind, "What if I win?" One of the delegation said something very true, he said, "If we don't do anything to the park for the next 20 years we are going to regret that we didn't take this deal."  I whole heartily agree with this statement.  We, as a community, now need to step up more than ever before, we have to live up to the trust that council has put into us.  No more complaining that Elmira gets everything, no more whining.  Now is the time for action!  We have to let the past drift away as we build our future.  I plan on being in Breslau for a long time and I want to make it a great place.

I would like to begin the healing process right now.  I want to reach out to everyone in Breslau and say what next?  How do we build our community into something we can all say we are proud of.  Our individual positions on this project are now irrelevant.  We have a community to build and maintain.  That is not up to Council, that is up to us.

Sonya Willsher spoke passionately at the meeting that we as Breslau can come together to do this.  Sonya wanted me to put the challenge out to Breslau.  If you want to be part of organizing and fundraising for new park equipment, facilities and/or library please contact either Sonya at or me at  We want to recruit those in Breslau who want to build our community together.  This project has woken everyone up, now it is time to capitalize on that and get to work.  There have been many historical examples of great things that Breslau residents have done.  It is time for all of us new comers to do our part.

I would also like to reach out to the established groups already in Breslau, I am aware of the Lions Club and the Breslau Recreation Association.  Those groups already do great work in Breslau and we don't want to conflict their efforts. The Lion's Splash Pad project is an example of a project that has had significant amounts of work and hours of volunteer time put in.  This is a project we need to move forward now that this is cleared up. If there are any other groups in Breslau please let us know so we can be as coordinated and as efficient as we can.

I am excited about where we have come from and I am even more excited about where we are going.  Let us all go there together.

PS. GO Jays GO! AL East CHAMPS!!!!!!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

WCDSB New Breslau School - Update

The saga of the new school proposal from the WCDSB continues.  Tonight I attended another Township of Woolwich council meeting, if you are ever interested in how our municipal government works I would strongly encourage you to check out the Council Meeting section of the Township of Woolwich website. I chose to attend this meeting because Sandra Hanmer, our Task Force chair, presented to council our final report.

If you haven't been following this story the Breslau/Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) Project Task Force was established by the Township of Woolwich Council at its March 31, 2015 meeting.  We are a committee of residents from Breslau who were tasked to look at more detail into a proposal from the WCDSB to purchase 4 acres of parkland in the middle of the Riverland community for the purpose of building a new Catholic elementary school.  More detail about the task force can be viewed in my State of the Park Address.

Sandra presented to council our findings, you can review the final report on your own if you are interested in further detail.  In my opinion the coles notes summary is as follows:
  • The task force was split 3 in support, 2 undecided, and 2 against the project
  • Pubic opinion was split 36.5% in support, 21.5% undecided, and 34.6% against the project
    • Task force members spoke to 312 individuals by going door-to-door in Breslau's three distinct communities (Riverland, Hopewell, Old Breslau)
  • The core components of this project have not changed since the first public meeting on February 26, 2015
    • Selling of 4 acres for $1.75 million
    • Expanding the school library and make it a public library
    • Upgrades to the community centre gym
    • Using proceeds of the sale to fund recreational upgrades to the park
All of the Councillors expressed a little disappointment and frustration that the split was as close as it was.  Despite the intense effort that we put in as the task force we still had 2 undecided members and only 1 person on the task force was swayed from their original opinion.

Following this presentation there were 2 official delegations.  First was a resident expressing her opposition to the project and second was the Manager of Planning for the WCBSB who expressed excitement to proceed with this project.  Councillor Bauman was interested in staff reviewing the recommendations from the task force on recommendation one to sell the land.
  • Limiting portables on site to 4
  • Requiring school board to build a secondary accessible play structure to ensure the community has access to the play structure in the public park
  • Getting results from the WCDSB funded traffic study (Completed June 2015)
  • Staggering bell times with WDSB to alleviate traffic into the community
The school board representative explained that the school they were closing (St. Boniface) has a population of 130, they plan to build for 250 with upper floor expansion of a 4-6 more class rooms and felt that a limit of 4 portables was doable but 6 would be better.  The WCDSB plan for 10 students from every 100 residential homes.  They would not be looking for more land even in another location in Breslau.  Councillor Hahn asked a great question, "[Since the public meeting on Feb 6] have there been any changed to the general plan?"  He didn't get an answer to this question but the answer is, "No." Nothing about the project has changed, this means the "public consultation" means "public information"  there isn't really hasn't been a dialog between residents and the project.

This is where the meeting turned to the funny (from my perspective), an unregistered delegation requested to speak and was given permission to do so.  He asked the council when they expected to have a motion on the floor that council would then vote on for this proposal.  No one had an answer for him, not even an approximate timeline, nothing!  I found this slightly bizarre, but hey what do I know.  I believe Councillor Bauman was saying something about staff recommendations or report on something, I didn't quite catch it.

As Council was trying to direct staff to what kind of information they were needed the question came back to the school board representative about time lines.  She mentioned that the best case scenario for their development process was 2 years from the time they get an official approval to when they can build the school.  Since schools are very time sensitive for a September 1 start date she request that a decision gets made as soon as possible.

Shortly after this and a mere 8 minutes after they said they couldn't say when they would table a motion to be voted on, our Mayor decided she liked recommendation one and stated, "If council has the appetite to accept it then [she] would recommend they adopt recommendation one."  I know that sounds strange and slightly on the other side of rational when they just told the delegation they would have no way of knowing when a motion would be on the floor to vote on and our Mayor decides 8 minutes later that now would be a good time.  Despite the extremely close split on public opinion, despite numerous time people accused the council that this was a done deal.  I just about lost my cool.  I had been telling residents for several months, this is not a done deal, trust our elected officials, they want to hear from you.  Then just like that on a whim she tries to put a motion on the floor.  There was a bit of confusion at this point but the proceedings were stopped due to a scheduled break.  

Nice unused spaced at the end
 of Andover Dr. in Brelsau
I had to go out to the hall to collect myself, was this actually happening.  I have admitted to myself throughout this whole process that I do not speak for all of Breslau (at least now I know I speak for about a third).  I have my views and others have theirs and this project is a win in the finance department for a cash strapped township.  I knew that I would most likely lose this battle but I didn't expect this.  I didn't expect our Mayor to try and slip in an unscheduled motion to sell 4 acres of parkland without even telling Breslau about it.  I was told that this was an information session not a vote.  If this was a vote I would have been more persuasive to those that talked to me about it.  I felt stunned.

Don't worry things get even more interesting from here.  On the resumption after the break, wisely there was no one to second the Mayors motion.  Councillor Bauman stated while he may agree on the recommendation this was not the appropriate place for a motion and a vote. Councillor Bauman worked to direct staff while the others stayed quiet.  Mayor Shantz immediately backtracked and agreed with that approach.  Then Councillor Merlihan mentioned the report came out late on a long weekend, there has not been an appropriate amount of time for feedback.  After this back and forth *magically* they were able to determine that the staff report would come back for the September 29 meeting and I am assuming there will be a motion on the floor during that meeting.  I guess the delegation that asked for the timeline got his question answered in the end.

So attention Breslau, regardless of your position on this proposal you need to check out the Council Meeting web page for the September 29 meeting.  I can assure you there will be a vote.  If you have new information or would like to highlight information in the report please register as a delegation and share with the Council. Delegations can register up to noon on the day of the meeting with the clerks division. Written comments can be emailed in on the Thursday before the meeting.

The next key part of information on this project also came out tonight (as if the above wasn't enough). In order to sell the land they need to declare the land surplus according to their procedures.  This would involve a public notice and then 30 days for feedback.  This procedure must happen after council votes in favour of selling the land.  So at the earliest the land could be considered surplus and sold at the end of October 2015.

Sunrise over the park
This post has taken far to long to write and now I am sleepy and I am not sure that any of it makes any sense.  I apologize for any of the creative grammar and spelling I may have used, feel free to point them out in the comments. I felt it was important to get this information out to the Breslau community as soon as I could.  I have many more questions that I don't have time to get into:

  1. Will this create a precedent which essentially puts a "For Sale" sign on our underused public parkland in Woolwich?
  2. How do we justify forcing developers to "donate" 5% of their assets as public parks and then we turn around and sell them for a profit?
  3. Those who oppose the project are asking those who want to have the school to wait a few years and your school will be here regardless, if you build on this park now, it is gone forever.
  4. Even if the school is built on the park, you can expect it to open in 2018.  I wonder how soon they could build on other open lands when the Secondary plan is approved?  Might be a year later 2019 and we still have a park?  Who knows?
  5. What happens after the land is declared surplus?  Can anyone buy it?  If I win the lotto max this weekend and I offer 2 million for surplus land, then what?
I do not want to come across as an "out of control bully" or a disgruntled task force member who didn't get his way.  I want to know how we can make more people happy in Breslau then just 36.5%.  Do you have an idea, can we find a deal that benefits everyone or will we just have winners and losers and we are OK with that?  We need to grow Breslau as a single community.  How?

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Canadian Federal Election October 19, 2015 #elxn42

2015 Canadian federal election is now underway it will be the longest election campaign in modern history spanning some 11 weeks before we get to cast our ballots on October 19, 2015.  Now this is different than the US which seems to always be in election mode.

I am a firm believer that people rarely change their vote from one election to the next.  The difference in any election is who actually shows up to vote.  My hope and wish is that everyone takes the time to to vote, I will accept whatever government is democratically elected.  However, when so few people turn out to vote I weep for the state of democracy in our country.

Official turnout for the 41st federal general election held on May 2, 2011 was 61.1%, 2.3 percentage points higher than the all-time low of 58.8% for 2008. The participation in 2011 is comparable to the turnout seen in other elections since 2000, but much lower than participation prior to 1993, when turnout typically varied between 70% and 80%.

I have included the twitter feeds below of the 4 main parties in this election.  Educate yourself and find a party that speaks to you and inspires you to be better and has the potential to make Canada better.  Educate yourself and vote, your vote counts, but only when you cast it!

I would also like to include these two tweets that speak to our voter turnout in the last election:

Please take the time to educate yourself and vote on October 19th 2015. If you have questions about how to vote or if you are eligible to vote please visit the Elections Canada website at

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Breslau Public Meeting on School Proposal - July 8, 2015

This meeting will be hosted and facilitated by the Breslau Task Force.  We are 100% committed to hosting an evening where everyone feels welcome and feels heard.  We have been directed by council to solicited as much feedback from residents as possible.  The task force debated significantly on how to best solicit feedback as we considered canvassing Breslau, an online survey, telephone interviews,  as well as other methods.  Due to cost, feasibility and potential problems with the representativeness of the results we decided that another public meeting would be the best way to get the information we have been tasked to find out.  The following quote was taken from a Woolwich Observer article this weekend:
“It’s not going to be like an open mic night where people can just sign up and fire off questions, complaints, criticisms, or whatever,” Smith said. “It’s going to be more of small table discussions and really more of an intimate setting where people can share their views, their questions, their concerns in a much more welcoming and respectful environment without the fear of being intimidated by the mob that we had at the first meeting.”
As a task force we have reviewed all the feedback sent to council via emails and letters, we have reviewed the proposals from the township and the school board, next we need to hear from you! Your attendance and participation at this meeting will have a critical impact on how we move forward. This project has been in the public sphere now for several months and we have received very strong feedback both supporting this project and strong feedback opposing it.  Now that much more information is available, we would like to gauge overall support and opposition as it exists now.  We can't do that if people don't talk to us.  Information on the work of the task force has been posted on the townships website.  Regardless of the eventual outcome of this single project we are a community and we have to live and work together.  I hope that this meeting can be the another step to celebrating each other and our community.

Please come out even if you are a quiet person, we will ensure there is a way to hear your voice and your concern / support.  If you would rather submit written comments please use the email  These emails get forwarded directly to the task force for us to consider. I hope to see a large turn out on July 8th; I have been very proud to be a resident of Breslau these last few months.  I have learned more about municipal politics then I ever thought possible as I have seen the good, bad and ugly on both sides of this debate.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Breslau Task Force on WCDSB Proposal

This is a video that I put together to try and give some visual perspective to the parkland we are discussing.

First things first

I have created a flyer that you can download and distribute to help spread the word about this blog and about this project.

Task Force first meeting synopsis

Our first meeting was May 14, 2015 and we discussed the plan and expectations for our time together.  I will not be using this blog to write about the discussions of the Task Force as we agreed that details that emerge from task force discussions should be clear and consistent and be made available on the Township of Woolwich web page. I will mention that there was a slight change in the make up of the task force to include 2 members for the project, 2 members against, and 3 members who are undecided.  This a a removal of a representative from the parent council of St. Boniface and an addition of an undecided.  It was a pleasure to meet my other task force members and I was very encouraged by the their willingness to ask the right questions and everyone's open mind on these issues.  All of the dialog was respectful and I look forward to working with this group.  The goal is to have a final report before the last council meeting in June before they have a summer break.  I think this is an aggressive timeline but we will see what can be done.

WCDSB Proposal History and Details

For those of you who are new to this discussion I wanted to use this post to give links back to old posts on this topic to get you caught up on what has been going on.  Granted all of this is through my eyes and my opinion so you can take that as you will.

This is a chronological list of my blog posts
  1. Green Space More Important than New School 
  2. Protect Green Space Call to Action 
  3. Breslau Catholic Elementary School Partnership 
  4. Breslau Memorial Park is More than Green Space 
  5. Traffic and Safety Concerns - New School
  6. Breslau Post Meeting Synopsis - Trust Issues
  7. State of the Park Address
  8. Development Charges, a Task Force, and a Rally
On approximately February 4, 2015, I started a petition to inform the Township and the WCDSB that residents were opposed to this plan.  At this time there are 248 signatures on the petition, if you are interested in signing you can follow the link below:

I recognize that I started this petition before the first public meeting was even held, however, the signatures continue to grow and here are some examples of comments posted in the last month:

Undeveloped land needs to be used to build the new Catholic School in Breslau, inclusive of a proper traffic plan. The designated green space we have in Breslau needs to be left green! -Tanya 
I support this community in retaining its park space for recreation and community activities. -Geddy
The park and community are central to our small community. I agree with Iva. It cannot be replaced. There is room for a school on undeveloped land. Please keep our park for everyone to enjoy at anytime. -Erin
I believe that the sale of this parkland is only in the interests of the WRCSB and not at all in the interests of the citizens of Breslau nor the Township of Woolwich. Added to this is the fact that this is being sold at an outrageous discount. -Blake
 We value the park space as part of our community and do not agree with it being sold.-Donna
This park land is a part of the Breslau Community and should not be sold for ANY reason!!! -William
Green space is the reason we moved in Breslau and now will become concrete and buildings??? There's so much undeveloped space around Breslau, use that land for the school. -Aida
 I've lived here for 65 years. The park is 70 years old and has always been the center of the community. 4 acres of green in the core of Breslau can never be replaced if a school is built. -Iva

The following is a list of information materials that are available for this proposal:

Finally, I am part of the task force of residents requested by council to look at this proposal.  As part of this task force I want to hear from you.  Obviously, I have put my opinion out here on these posts but I always believe that there is something that I have missed or more that I can learn. I would love for you to contact me at  Any details or questions that you can bring to me in this way I will bring o the task force.

Thank you Breslau for your spirit and your community engagement.  The one thing about this proposal that I absolute love is the renewed sense of community that I have experienced in Breslau over the last several months.

Thank you!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Development Charges, a Task Force, and a Rally

Wow, it has been over a month since my State of the Park Address, I kept meaning to write up another post but I couldn't really organize myself enough.  The photo above occurred this past weekend where one of many events are held at the community centre, in the parking lot, and soccer field near by.  These events occur often and I wonder how they will be impacted once a school is built there. Will these events still occur? Will specific permission need to be granted by the school board to use the property? Will the events have the space to spill out with kids activities on the grass right next to the community centre?  I have no intention on finding out because there are many reasons why this project should not happen. My last post discussed the creation of a Task Force to look with more depth at the proposal by WCDSB to purchase parkland in Breslau and build a new elementary school.  Since that time the following individuals have been identified as Task Force members:
  • Karen Augusto
  • JoAnna Brunnenmeir
  • Robyn King
  • Terri-Ann Kuntz
  • Bill Smith
  • Matthew VanderMeer <--- thats me
  • Wayne Wright
  • Councillors – Murray Martin and Larry Shantz ( Non-voting)
  • Sandra Hanmer (Non-voting Chair)
I have attended a bunch of council meetings over the past few weeks and I honestly believe that the Councillors are seeking solid factual information.  I think some of the parks and recreation staff may have already made up their minds on the project but this thing is a long way from over because it will come down to a township council vote.  From what I understand there were 14 applications to be on the task for and 7 were against the current proposal, 3 supported it, and 4 were undecided or neutral.  From the applicants they selected 2 from each group and a representative from the parent council of St. Boniface.  I have been selected for this task force and I want to encourage anyone and everyone to please send me your thoughts, comments, ideas, and solutions to this situation.  You can contact me at We as Breslau need to be in communication with each other and I want to hear from you if you support this project and why.  Tell me what benefit I am missing.

As the first act of my task force involvement, I attended a information session on Development Charges.  The first thing that I would like to say about the topic is that it is very confusing and subject to change with little notice.  The coles notes version of development charges is they are charged and used for supporting the development of infrastructure and services that support growth in a given region or municipality. What this means is any costs associated to improving the park facilities to support the growing number of residents could and should be supported via development charges.  Unfortunately, it is a little more difficult and complicated then that because the projects that are required to support growth need to be identified and pseudo budgeted for within the context of a background study.  The background study is then used to calculated the development charges that a construction company is charged.  The background study needs to be repeated and updated every 5 years and staff must report to council how development charges are spent annually. So there is a lot of paper work and regulations here.

A very important message that came from this session was if you donate money for a township project you MUST SPECIFY that your donation is for the NON-GROWTH related portion of the project.  If you do this then the growth related part of the project can and will be funded via development charges.  If you do not specify then your donation will be split 50/50 and then less development charges will be able to be used.  Development charges are charged to developers to help the township cover capital costs of sustaining growth.  Your donations are not for sustaining growth but should be used for enhancing existing services.  This brings to my mind a significant question, nah rather a demand, that ALL 1.75 million from the sale of our park (providing this goes through) should be directly designated for NON-GROWTH related project expenditures.  This demand is based on the fact that the development companies who built in Breslau were charged development charges to support the growth they were responsible for.  Therefore, that money along with any other money charged to Breslau developers in the coming years should continue to be used to support Breslau GROWTH-RELATED projects and NOT used to pay down the $858 000 deficit in development charges for the Memorial Centre in Elmira.  All development charges collected in Elmira should be used to pay that down instead of continuing to siphon off Breslau growth related projects.

Finally, a group of residents are organizing a rally to show support for the park.  Please take the time to consider stopping by the Community Centre on May 9, 2015 between 1:00 and 3:00 pm to show your support for the park.

We all understand the limited options available to municipalities when it comes to growth and maintenance projects.  However, we also understand the scarcity of parkland in our increasingly urban society.

I am exited to be a part of this task force and have the opportunity to apply a strong voice for alternative options for this project.  Development charges are a mechanism to support growth related expenses but are not the only revenue stream for our township.  We have to continue to plan for our future and make Breslau a priority.  We are one of the fasted growing settlement areas in Ontario and it is about time we start getting treated like one.

PS. Stay tuned because this party is just getting started and you can expect more posts in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

State of the Park Address

Just prior to the Township of Woolwich council meeting on March 31, 2015 the township staff sent out a package of information about the next steps for the new school proposal in Breslau Memorial Park.  I attended the council meeting to try and understand better how all these things work.  It was the first municipal council meeting that I have ever attended and it was all very interesting.  I could do without all the "formalities" of second this, carry that, through you madam mayor to so and so, but over all very interesting and enlightening.  My overall take from this single meeting is the Councillors that have been elected are doing their best to acquire the information that they need to make this decision.  I acknowledge that this process is far from simple and I recognize the difficulty in making this decision.  I am going to try to be as neutral in this post as I can (fingers crossed).

The essence of the first part of the council meeting was to try and nail down the specifics for a Task Force that will be assembled to look at the entire proposal in further depth.  The task force is proposed to include the following members:

  1. Stakeholder for the project
  2. Stakeholder for the project
  3. Stakeholder against the project
  4. Stakeholder against the project
  5. Stakeholder undecided
  6. Stakeholder undecided
  7. Member of St. Boniface Parent Committee
  8. Member of Council
  9. Third Party Neutral Chair / Facilitator
My first thought was, what is more relevant in this case a task force representative of public opinion or one that has equal representation from each side of the issue.  I think we can agree that support for this project in Breslau is not 50/50.  I certainly hope that they make the number of applications in each group public.  To me, if any one of the groups listed above has a significantly higher number of applicants, that alone should carry weight.  The township has now posted an online form to apply to be involved in this task force.  You can visit to apply to be part of this task force.  I would encourage everyone who has an interest in this project to seriously consider this opportunity to get involved in the community.

Applications must be received by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 10th, 2015. I have submitted mine and I am excited to learn who will be on this task force and how the process moves forward from here. If you are interested in being on the Task Force you should download and read the complete project information (same as above).

What if I am not on the task force?

The next major point that I would like to raise here first, before any members are selected for the task force, is that you can still be involved.  The Task force will be only 8 members of our community and for the sake of the township all 8 better be Breslau residents or somebody is going to be cranky.  I am proposing here that if anyone wants to be involved I am will to lead a separate task force (we will call it a delegation) for anyone who wants to be involved but was not selected for the task force.

One thing that was made quite clear to me during the council meeting was the Councillors want to hear from as much of Breslau as they possibly can.  If there are other willing individuals who did not get selected or choose not to join the task force please contact me.

The following are the activities that I intend to work through for this separate delegation which directly match the work the official Task Force will be doing.

SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
Activity #1 - Visioning Exercise: Participants will be organized into four small groups by table. They will be provided a worksheet on which to record their input on the strengths and opportunities of this project. Participants will share their visions with the rest of the participants. Next, as a small group and with a facilitator, each table will determine their collective vision statement for the project.
Activity #2 -Weaknesses and Threats: What barriers hamper success? Continuing with the same group of activity 1, participants will be asked to identify the weaknesses and threats of the project.
Activity #3 - Solutions and Options: After completing a SWOT analysis, participants will be asked to consider options, solutions and problem solving ideas on how each barrier identified in the categories below, can be addressed. 

The official Task Force will be asked for a variety of deliverables. Our complimentary delegation will be tasked to draft a full report of the same content.

1. Examine options in dealing with school (Due: April 30, 2015)
  • Placement, security, traffic, gymnasium use, park use
2. Input into Library Service Delivery (Due: May 15th, 2015)
  • Hours of operation, security, shared use of space, collections
3. Determine Breslau upgrade priorities (Due: May 30th, 2015)
  • Park upgrades, community centre upgrades

4. Explore alternative options (Due: May 30th, 2015)
  • Financing park / community centre upgrades, library building

If I am selected for the Official Task force I do not believe I will be able to lead this unofficial delegation.  I just wanted to post this idea here first before members are selected to show the steps that have been taken are deliberate and intentional and not in anger or reactionary to not being picked.  

Please let me know your thoughts, we have walked on this journey together and we will continue to make footprints through our park.  Let us continue to make this project so we can continue to walk together and carry each other regardless if we support this project or not.  This post didn't end up as eloquent as I would have liked but I feel it has a lot of information in it that I want to get out and I am a bit tired so it is what it is and I hope you find it helpful.

Breslau is a great place to live so lets keep it that way and be great examples for those who come after us!

PS. Township, you're welcome for pictures depicting the park as it truly is, feel free to use them in your next power point.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Breslau Post Meeting Synopsis - Trust Issues

We had a public Information Session to discuss the new school proposal by the WCDSB and the Township of Woolwich.  The meeting was on Thursday, Feb 26 and I have been pouring over everything that happened and all the information that was presented trying to come up with a coherent response.  From my perspectives there were two main response themes: Student Safety and Financial Details / Discrepancies.  I would say there was 200-250 people at the meeting and from my count 2 individuals came forward to say they supported this plan.
“There are people in the community that would like the school there, unfortunately we didn't hear from as many of those yesterday” says Manuel da Silva, WCDSB Chair. “We heard from many people who were opposed to the school.”
I am not entirely sure where Mr. da Silva was expecting the support to come from.  Information that was presented to us stated that 125 students are enrolled in St. Boniface currently.  Not to be to stereotypical here but I think that those would be multiple student families so 60 or so families.  Next I would say not all of them are excited about leaving Maryhill so they wouldn't be excited about supporting this proposal.  So lets be generous and say that 40 of those families are in Breslau and are excited about moving the school to this location and they all showed up and voiced their support at the meeting.  They would have been overwhelmed by the dozens of speakers against.  I suppose that some Breslau residents would have looked at the upside of the library and the park upgrades and felt that this is something we should consider as one brave speaker pointed out.  The challenge with that second category of support will be addressed below as the financial aspects of this project and what is being proposed for upgrades has a few glaring problems.

Student Safety

I would like to discuss the concerns of student safety that some of the speakers raised.  We know and were assured by the WCDSB that the lock down policy would be in effect during the school day.  The gymnasium would not be affected by this lock down but the connection between the school and gym would be.  Residents were informed that extra supervision could be used to ensure student safety in the shared gym space while occupied by students.  The school board cited the example of St. Daniel Catholic Elementary School and the Stanley Park Community Centre as an example of this partnership.

Increased traffic was also sighted as a safety concern and it was rebutted by the envious and significantly large parking lot that the school would have access to.  As stated by the board, no school in our region has access to such a parking lot.  The traffic issue was where the irony of moving from Maryhill to Breslau was brought up.  The board stated that approximately 58/125 where bussed into Maryhill so wouldn't the ratio be similar if you bussed all the Maryhill kids to Breslau?  This was countered by the idea that Breslau was expanding and thus more students would be living in the area, which was countered by a new subdivision was just approved in Maryhill.  It just became a very cyclical argument that had less to do with facts then it appeared.

The next major safety issue was the idea of fencing.  The board assured that the kindergarten children would have a small fenced play area as is normal for our region.  However, since something magical happens between SK and Grade 1 the main school property would not be fenced and would instead rely on teacher supervision to ensure that students stayed on school property during outdoor recreation periods.  This lead to a discussion about the current play structure in the park and who would get priority use of it.  This point became increasingly unclear as it was said that if no one was using it then the school could have access.  Which really makes absolutely no sense, if a community kid came by then all the school kids would have to leave and go back to school property?  This led to all kids of questions about what recreation facilities (climbing structures) would be within school property and what would potential students have access to?  This wasn't clarified very well for me and I "zoned out for a second".  A point was made that the soccer field would be upgraded with money from the sale of the parkland.  This didn't immediately sit well with residents because it appeared that the school board was buying a part of the park and the proceeds went to upgrade a soccer field that it could use without paying for it (not a good start when talking about potential upgrades, more on that to come).

Financial Details / Discrepancies

The main thrust of opposition was fixed upon financial claims and it was the point that I also spoke on.  Although, I will have to admit I didn't do very well at keeping my own emotions in check and I got a bit carried away and I would like to get a second chance at that one but I digress.  Many of the residents challenged the Townships ultimatum that if we want any of the proposed upgrades to happen, including the library, we had to accept this proposal from the school board.  The proceeds from the sale were set at 1.75 million and without this money there would be no room in capital budgets for anything in the park.  If we did not go ahead with this project it would take 20 years to make up the capital. Speaker after speaker came to the microphone in the centre of the room and directly challenged this statement.

Residents were told that Elmira was getting upgrades because they had community involvement and community fundraising.  Which I have two arguments that I would like to raise on that issue:
  1. Despite the capital fundraising by residents the township is still voluntarily taking on thousands of dollars per year in maintenance of these projects.  This money comes from residents taxes and it appears as favouritism to Elmira.
  2. The Lions club has been working and fighting for a splash pad far before the this project was on the books.  I have recently learned that the township told them to hold off on initiating fundraising at this time?  Is that because they don't want to take on a maintenance budget for a Breslau project? Since no one wants to answer we can only assume, and people on the project don't want to say anything because they "still need to work with the township".  What that sounds like to me is a highschool bully situation but since I am not involved I can only just whisper these things to myself.
One courageous resident come to the microphone and demanded to know how the park that currently has a maintenance building, pavilion, tuck shop, single washroom, tennis courts, etc. was ever allowed to deteriorate to the point that 1.75 million is needed just to put it back together.  I guess Abraham Lincoln has a lesson the township needed to learn:
You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.

Residents pushed the township to explain what was done with the development fees charged to Empire Homes and Thomasfield, where does all the money go from building permits, and most importantly where does 24% from the annual property tax go that over 1000 homes pay in Breslau every year?  For the homes in old Breslau they have their own private septic systems, and for the new homes are all on brand new water and sewer.  Where does the money the township makes in Breslau go?  The township responded to these concerns to say that money goes into the capital budgets and it is distributed across the township to ensure places that don't have high development also get upgrades.  I fully support this and I am ok with my taxes supporting the township and it didn't come to Breslau this time (or anytime in the past 10 years).  However, as a speaker asked, "How the heck do we make Breslau a Priority?" One gentleman had an estimate of 1.5 million collected in development fees in the last 6 or so years.  I didn't fully understand these details but his point was there was money there just not allocated to Breslau.  Once the legal mess is sorted, Empire and Thomasfiled will go back to building houses and paying fees.  We won't need to wait 20 years we just need to wait until somebody in the township cares enough to make Breslau a priority.  This is where I have to impart my parental wisdom to the township by quoting something that I often tell my own children:

I make predictions on your future behaviour by what you have done in the past.  This is how I know that you aren't going to clean up that mess and it is too close to bed time to play with lego.
Ok, so maybe the lego part wasn't needed here but I think you get what I am saying.  The park has pieces that can't be used because of their disrepair.  How are we to believe that once you sell a capital asset of green space to get the coveted 1.75 that you will be able to maintain it?  What are you going to sell off in 10 years to fix the park again, you have nothing much left to sell?  It comes down to trust and the residents of Breslau do not trust the township offices in Elmira (in case you weren't aware).

To further illustrate this point on trust, whenever the documents and staff talk about what the school board will get it is stated clearly.  When you flip the coin and ask what residents getting we hear a long list of potential upgrades that will take further consultation to prioritise.  Upgrades that haven't even been properly costed out, meaning that maybe none of them are actually possible once we connect the community centre and new comfort station to the municipal services.  A clear example of lying to the residents with their fingers crossed behind their back.  Well, we said potential and you could get these things.  I would rather block this project full stop then find out what goodies I will get at the end of the rainbow.

Initially I was opposed to the project because of my view out my back window and losing the premium that I paid for the privilege.  Now I oppose the project even more because the township has given me no reason to support it.  They hold the list of upgrades above my head saying you could have these if you behave and move a side.  This is the way you influence a toddler not fully engaged citizens (this is where I should mention the horrid picture of the park that was used by the township in their presentation but it would take too long to explain).  The township could refund me twice my park premium and I would return it to them since they clearly need the money.  This is no longer about that.  It is about trust and mutual relationship that we don't have.  If we had open communication and mutual trust with the township Breslau residents would be standing up and asking, "What can we do?"

  • Should we lobby business for donations?
  • Should we demand better municipal support from our Provincial and Federal Members of Parliament
  • Should we organize fundraising committees?
  • Should we investigate infrastructure grants?
Instead we get accept what we tell you or you get nothing.  I think we need to change this conversation.  Tell me where we should go and I will work on the support!

In the media